Isabelle Fauvel • Specialised in project development
by Valerio Caruso
17/09/2009 - During the training course "Expertise du Scénario", held in Paris on 25 and 26 March and 1st and 2nd of April 2010 and promoted by Isabelle Fauvel and other 7 experts, Cineuropa publishes an interview on the evolution of writing and the development of projects.
Cineuropa: At what stage producers discover the projects? Do they always receive more or less definitive screenplays or synopsis, or treatments? Did the situation change in the last ten years?
Isabelle Fauvel: I have been in the business for more than 20 years, listening tirelessly to the complaints and recriminations regarding the reading of screenplays. All screenwriters, directors and producers have, at some point during their careers, actually during their whole careers, experienced how difficult is being read. Let's highlight that to the difficulty of reading we may add the difficulty to be read in a reasonable time (less than 3 months) and to receive a bit more detailed feedback that "our production schedule does not allow us to take charge of a new project, despite the quality of your screenplay blah blah blah", information that could be sent on the first day and that does not advance anyone.
Sometimes this response, which is nothing more than a fixed formula, reaches the person who has sent the screenplay – should this person be writer, director or, for example, a producer looking for a co-producer - only after having the "person responsible for receiving projects" whose name often is not even known by his interlocutors, insisting a lot.
In other words, reading, the feedback on the reading, is a source of problems and discouragement, efforts and disappointments, relationships starting the wrong way...
When you deliver a screenplay, you rarely know who reads it, based on what criteria your work is assessed, if the person reading it is a decision maker of the enterprise (which happens rarely), if this person has access to the decision makers. And often the report regarding this reading, even if it was prepared carefully, is only embryonic, minimalist, trunk …
Given this remark, according to which everybody complains while looking for temporary solutions - the main one of which is to be recommended to the people we would like reading us –there is the attempt to send short texts together with an explanatory note.
The willingness of authors/directors/producers who send shorter texts (in general treatments) is based on a simple calculation: if it takes 3 months for reading 110 pages (to have the 110 pages read), it should take 1 month to have 20 pages read and we should mainly be able to have those 20 pages read by the person to whom they are addressed, and not just a "reader".
If this analysis is logical, and sometimes, indeed, it has given results, it seems, however, on a more general level, this practice has not solved everything. However, it is also important to show that, despite the profit in terms of time and effectiveness, sending a treatment also shows an evolution of practices and wishes connected to the development.
The desire to involve the other further upstream, to continue walking together rather than meeting on the V 1 or V 5 of a screenplay that would have fewer chances to meet the wishes of the other.
Who is a good reader?
The issue is complicated, a bit like if you asked me what a good tourist guide? A good guide to restaurants, wine or other ... In fact, the good guide is the one that meets your tastes, your wishes, your means and your needs. If you make an apology of a seafood restaurant and I'm allergic, your criticism could also be formidable, but I will not go and we both lost time.
So a good reader is above all one who knows the reason why he reads? In what context? With what expectations? And that, thanks to this relationship with his "customer", feels authorized to propose something that sometimes is not expected.
But you will say that the reader is not one who chooses the screenplay he reads, you send it to him, obviously, but the reality is that these recommendations should take into account the reality of the company ordering a card, its expectations, its possibilities in terms of market, so that you should not prepare the same presentation for two different producers, it should be adapted to the person financing it. However, it is necessary to know the other so as to be able to adapt to him.
Therefore this scheme is very rare, few producers, distributors ... They know the readers they employ, on the other hand, there are few cards that are read. So even a good reader, someone who would apply with passion and commitment to the analysis of the potential of the project proposed, is very likely to get discouraged after a few years and become a bad reader.
A bad reader who is dealing with his profession, applies analysis schemes to the project submitted and chooses the easiest explanation.
Going straight to the point the good reader (the right reader) is the one who has a chance to say yes or no to a meeting, about a project, to the person who is presenting the subject proposed.
If always more treatments are received it is also important that readers learn to read the potential of a movie in 20 pages that look more like a literary novelty. Also this is not easy, it would be good to question about the practice. Those who know their profession also know what a treatment can become, while someone who has read 100 scripts and is at the beginning of the career will have more issues.
Why reading screenplays?
For reading the screenplays - and it's a good question - in my opinion we need at least 3 basic things: encountering a text, a story, a subject (so as to co-write it, achieve it, produce it, distribute it, finance it...), meeting an author because even though we do not like the text because for example we do not love the type of project or have the impression that the movie has already been done or seen, it is reading that we discover some beautiful pens for the audiovisual, feeling the reasons of what is written, and of what animates mind and imagination.
As a consequence reading is never useless and even reading ourselves: relying on the tastes of others is often necessary, but if we want to create OUR OWN opinion we should remain homeopathic, as, except for commissions and distributors, and independent producer or a director, of course, at the end will trust only their own opinion and personal taste. This requires us to read, read again, read always…